Marriage–Breaking An Engagement

NoI just “love” to talk about marriage, especially with singles. Teasing singles about their marriage with levity is just so much fun and cute. I have already written on marriage several times: Marriage Is Covenant Keeping, Marriage By Faith (Should No Dating Be A Church Policy?), If Not For UBF I Would Not Be Married. They have generated 346 comments. Sadly, many of the comments were of unpleasant “marriage by faith” experiences, which needs to be addressed and corrected. Instead of repeatedly insisting that there are many happy marriages in UBF (of which I am one), there are nonetheless serious issues that do not please God.

Recently, I spoke with a girl in UBF who was introduced and engaged to a boy several years ago. But she broke off the engagement. She explained that at the time she felt pressured by her Bible teacher to accept “marriage by faith.” She also felt competitive toward other single girls like her in the ministry. So she agreed to the engagement and to “marry by faith.” But several years later she decided to call it off. Now she feels guilty that she broke off the engagement.

She is a sincere Christian who wants to do what is right. Like every Christian girl she wants God to bless her with a Christian husband who will love and cherish her. But because she broke off her two year engagement she now feels that God is displeased with her.

So I used this as an opportunity to explain to her the gospel. In particular, I stressed that God does not love her more or less whether she stays engaged and “marries by faith” or breaks the engagement. God’s love for her does not change whether she is struggling to obey God or giving into sin. This is basic and fundamental to Christianity. This is the gospel. I encouraged her to reject Satan’s accusations by dwelling in the gospel of God’s love and grace, and to seek God’s will for her life, her future and her marriage.

On another occasion, another girl broke off a two year engagement. This angered the boy’s shepherd. He wanted the engagement obligation kept even though the girl clearly made up her mind that she cannot go through with it. He said, “Engagement is tantamount to marriage.” As I recollect it, that statement is not in the Bible. It is only in UBF manuscripts that speak about Joseph’s engagement to the virgin Mary (Mt 1:18-25). I realize that some UBFers assume that what is written in a UBF manuscript is gospel truth.

Why has this happened? I think that UBF’s “marriage by faith policy” has likely created pressure and false guilt, especially when one refuses a person introduced to them. Sadly, some UBF leaders inadvertently communicate that if you reject the person introduced, you lack faith and God will now punish you. Some are “trained” by having to wait for some years before they are introduced to someone else again. Such practices are wrong on so many levels: it obscures the gospel; it obscures faith by promoting work righteousness and forced obedience; it destroys freedom in Christ; it produces pride in those who accept it, and guilt in those who reject it; it puts marriage in the hands of the UBF leader rather than in the couple. (See Commandment 7 in The 10 Commandments of UBF.) As mentioned, I hope that such unhealthy practices may soon be addressed.



  1. I think when people have done anything “by faith”, they are afraid to reverse it, because it becomes part of their righteousness.

  2. Thanks Timothy, I think that when we truly do something by faith, entrusting our hearts and lives to God, God gives us freedom.

    But the problem is that sometimes faith is communicated by Bible teachers and preachers as though it were a work. I think that it is then then that that “faith” becomes a “work righteousness.”

  3. As for breaking engagement, it’s hard not just because of your own faith. There is a second person now… And something was promised to that person.

    I don’t think I could easily solve this dilemma if it were my own.

  4. Yes, the hardest, most difficult and painful issue is the person affected by the breaking of the engagement. What I have communicated often is this:

    * the person breaking the engagement should prayerfully do so with the utmost of gentleness and compassion.

    * the person hurt/devastated by the break up, if a Christian, may prayerfully see the hand of God’s perfect sovereignty and personal love for him/her in this heartbreaking event.

  5. My understanding of Jewish tradition is that a betrothal (engagement) was dealt very seriously in the culture, and the cessation of an agreement to marry required a formal procedure. Hence the passage that said that Joseph wanted to divorce Mary quietly despite the fact that they had not yet been married.

    In our culture, engagement is not taken so seriously and it is acceptable (and probably advisable in some instances) to break an engagement if done in a loving and Christ-honouring way. I think that the weight of Scripture indicates that marriage is a covenant, not engagement.

    I don’t know the situation in discussion (obviously) but something else that may be relevant is that many engagements in UBF occur before a significant courting period can occur. (In my case, my wife and I met only 3 times before we married, if you can believe it! I guess 3 times was all that was needed, Praise the Lord!) If after being engaged and getting to know the person, incompatibilities are uncovered, it is only sensible to break the engagement. Avoiding dating may have some benefits, but dating/courting is useful in learning about a person before committing your life to them. I don’t regret anything about my marriage except I wish I had gotten to know even more about how wonderful my wife is before I married her.

    Of course, this opens up a whole new can of worms: what does it mean to do something “by faith”? I’ve been stewing on this for a while and am preparing to write an article with my thoughts. Stay posted–or assume the crash position :)

    Lastly, I strongly agree with Ben’s point regarding the gospel. The most liberating, empowering, and enlivening thing I ever learned is that I cannot diminish God’s love, and that nothing I do makes me more or less acceptable to Him, and that pleasing Him is not primarily by what I do but by remaining in His love. When I am secure in the love of God through the gospel of Jesus Christ, then I am prone to live, act, think, behave, and speak in ways that are honourable to Him. We are to live before God alone. Christians should never guilt-trip anyone. I think that guilt and feelings of condemnation are never of God. They are tools of the enemy to keep us from living fully in God’s love and grace. It is not the responsibility of God’s servants to make a person feel guilty, but to correct, exhort, and encourage in the truth, and to assure those who repent of the sufficiency of Jesus’ cross.

    • Amen! “The most liberating, empowering, and enlivening thing I ever learned is that I cannot diminish God’s love, and that nothing I do makes me more or less acceptable to Him, and that pleasing Him is not primarily by what I do but by remaining in His love. When I am secure in the love of God through the gospel of Jesus Christ, then I am prone to live, act, think, behave, and speak in ways that are honourable to Him.”

  6. Thanks, Joshua. Sorry if I communicated making light of and being dismissive of a commitment, especially a commitment to marry. An aspect of integrity surely includes keeping one’s commitments.

    Since I know both of these women, my sense was that our UBF culture of emphasizing marrying by faith as God’s way to marry has caused some to say “Yes” when they should have said “No” from the outset. Then when they finally do say “No,” they suffer the negative repercussions of that from others in the church, and from their own “false” guilt that was created by our church culture.

    • Thanks for your reply, Ben. In UBF, I was taught that Adam laboured endlessly in the garden, and he was so busy because he didn’t have anyone to help him, and so God needed to make him a coworker. Hence, the view of marriage as two coworkers working together for God’s work began to form in my mind. Unfortunately, I think that over-emphasizing the “coworker/coworking” aspect of marriage was very detrimental for my actual marriage. I said that I married my wife because I loved her, but really its because we were introduced and we married for campus mission. After all, I had met her all of 3 times, and although I had chosen to love her, I didn’t actually have any idea really of who I was loving. But our mission was the same and our drive to serve campus students was the same, so I thought it was okay. Our marriage was fundamentally rooted in our mutual involvement in UBF campus ministry. We focused on being good coworkers and working together properly so that the ministry would benefit. Of course, romantic love began to grow, but it was secondary to our connection to UBF; we worked together side-by-side, not face-to-face.

      After God led us to move on, we had to start looking at each other. We realized that because UBF was the reason we married, leaving it left a huge vacuum in our marriage. After 6 years, I was just beginning to learn who my wife really is. All sorts of things came to the surface that we had not been able to see because, frankly, our attitude was like, “It doesn’t really matter who you are, let’s get married and serve God in UBF together, and I’ll love you.” Everything was hyper-spiritualized, saying “This marriage is for God, this marriage is for God’s glory, for campus ministry, Abraham and Sarah, etc etc” which sounds good, but it really it masks that we had no idea who were marrying, what it meant, and why we were doing it. Things that we should have dealt with as a couple in a normal engagement remained below the surface for years. To be honest, after leaving UBF, I began to dislike my wife and struggled to embrace the new person she was becoming, which was actually the same person she was all along underneath the UBF identity. I think that she may probably say something similar. We’ve been seeing a Christian counselor to work through some of these things and others.

      So, to respond to your comment, I say: it cannot be over emphasized that couples should be able to get to know each other and marry each other FOR each other. Marriage should be TO a person, FOR a person, founded in mutual love for Christ, and directed toward each other. If that isn’t happening for whatever reason, call the engagement off.

    • An “arranged”-stye of marriage that resembles the UBF kind of MBF doesn’t necessarily preclude an appropriate engagement, as long as the couple have a sufficient opportunity to get to know the potential spouse in a meaningful way.

      I completely disagree that someone should “just do it by faith, and trust God that s/he is the right one.” God gave us brains, consciences, and instructions in Scripture for a reason: so that we use them to make the best decision we can.

  7. Thank you for your article sir!

  8. Thanks for pointing out what I consider to be the #1 prime indicator that ubf will be remembered as a failed Korean evangelistic movement: control of marriage.

    “As mentioned, I hope that such unhealthy practices may soon be addressed.”

    It won’t be addressed. Sure, over time, over the past 50 years, MbF has changed in minor ways. But the cultic, circular logic regarding marriage is too deeply embedded in the ubf fabric. The circular thought pattern goes like this:

    You love Jesus right?
    Then prove your love by your obedience!
    Ok, how do I do that?
    You must marry by faith, the ultimate test of faith!
    Why should I marry by faith and not for love?
    Because you love Jesus.
    But if I already love Jesus, why do I have to prove my love?
    You want to be the most blessed people, don’t you?
    Then marry by faith! Grab the blessing!

  9. The comments are pretty good and interesting to think about, especially Joshua’s. The article itself is helpful in thinking about the whole process of getting married, or in more spiritual terms “two becoming one.” It is a very delicate and fragile process. It seems so and I believe there are wise and unwise ways to go about it.

    I think creating a culture where freedom in Christ is suffocated and the proper forms of human autonomy is seen as “selfish” and against “living by faith” can lead to all kinds of heartache and confusion with anything. Where the spirit of manipulation and human control resides, someone’s going to get hurt. And when that spirit invades the matrimonial process the damaging effects become all the more evident.

    The deceptive spirit may be able to fly under the radar in other contexts, but when it comes to marriage and a person’s life is on the line, someone who may submit to that spirit in other contexts, will inevitably resist in the marriage consideration process since the stakes are higher.

    I’m listening to a very interesting and insightful series called “Theology of the Body” from a Catholic guy. Its provides a lot of biblical context for thinking about sex and marriage and two becoming one and the profound mystery. Really good stuff.

    • “from a Catholic guy”… lol just some Catholic dude right?

    • its a talk by Chris West he explains pope John Paul’s writings on theology of the body in lay terms. He actual walks through a lot of genesis 1 to 3

    • Thanks for the clarification and the link, Anon!

    • Your choice of words intrigues me, Anon:

      “The deceptive spirit may be able to fly under the radar in other contexts, but when it comes to marriage and a person’s life is on the line, someone who may submit to that spirit in other contexts, will inevitably resist in the marriage consideration process since the stakes are higher.”

      Yes, indeed, when marriage comes up, the resistance of “sheep” becomes greater, and extreme in a lot of cases. What intrigues me is your phrase “someone who may submit to that spirit in other contexts….”

      The ubf blue book (50th Anniversary lectures) takes quite a bit of space to orient people to the ubf spirit. Much is mentioned, but such “spirit of the community” is intentionally distinguished from the Holy Spirit and from Jesus.

      Your thoughts, Anon, help me understand why SO many people leave ubf during or right after MbF. They seemed to be always so “humble” and “loyal” and “obedient”, faithfully upholding the ubf spirit. But when that spirit requires them to sacrifice their marriage and commit their whole life to the ubf spirit (effectively “marrying” the ubf spirit) they tend to freak out.

  10. I know, I have written about this before, but since you asked for thougts about “breaking engagements”, I want to share my own story of breaking my engagement in UBF once more.

    Unusual for UBF, we had been engaged for about 1 year, we had an official engagement ceremony and were wearing engagement rings. But then, just about 2 weeks before our wedding, everything was already planned, guests already invited, our engagement was suddenly broken. It was not broken by me. It was not broken by my fiancée. It was in fact broken by my chapter director and his wife. In a sudden outburst of temper, because I did not appear to be obedient enough, he let his wife tell my fiancée bad things about me, and kind of “kidnapped” her through a Korean missionary to another UBF chapter. When I asked about her, I was told by his wife she did not knew where she was (which was a lie) and she gave me a direful hint “I don’t even know if you’re still in UBF”. In the end, God did not allow it to happen that way, and we luckily married anyway. Well, not so luckily in reality, because the traumatic experience of that “kidnapping night” was still laying on us when we should have had the most romantic days of our lives. On our wedding photos, where the bride is supposed to look happy, my wife looks so stressed, because of all the ugly stuff we went through in the days before. Can you imagine that even after such treatment we still stayed in UBF? Every normal person would have left such a group and run away as quickly as he could, but we were so indoctrinated at that time, that it took us another year to recognize we had been in a cult, through the things revealed in the reform movement of 2001. Only then we started to see the whole picture. I was like a blindfold was taken from our eyes.

    Later I understood that our case was not the only one where engagements and marriage plans were cancelled by UBF directors, and that they had even ordered members to divorce when one spouse wanted to leave UBF.

    • Thanks for sharing Chris. I may just be getting Alzheimers… but I don’t recall such a clear description of what happened, or else I just missed the comment here in the past.

      It goes without saying that your wedding began with inexcusable trauma. Even if you were disobedient, that does not give anyone the right to play God with your life.

      My wife and I fortunately did not experience a breaking off of the engagement, but we did experience a fist-pounding, angry rebuke just before our wedding day. Our sin? We were told angrily that we were “too busy-minded, running around like chickens with our head cut off!” Perhaps if we had more than 3 weeks to prepare for the biggest moment of our lives at that time, we might not have been so “busy-minded”.

      As I’ve share before, I tricked the MbF system to marry whom I wanted, and fortunately we had known each other somewhat for about 5 years. But still we were given only 3 weeks from engagement to marriage ceremony. We knew that if we “messed up” and spent the proper time to prepare, our engagement would have been called off…

    • Hi Chris, you said “it was like a blindfold was taken from our eyes.” That resonates with me. This song explains how I felt after leaving the performance-driven, works-oriented, God’s-favour-seeking, people-pleasing dreamworld and entered the wonderful new life of liberty in God’s unconditional love and grace:

    • joshua, love the Keith Green song. It is one of my favorites. But it is hard for me to listen to his music now that I discovered that his ministry was a heavy-handed dictator style shepherding paradigm. So I just imagine his songs as being sung after his ministry repented.

    • Hi Brian, ya I know what you mean, though I actually feel the opposite. I’m attracted to him because his love for Jesus is palpable, and even though he became out of focus and demanding, he repented and made every effort to change. I think that he is a real good example of how zeal can get out of hand. He would pack buildings absolutely overflowing with people, even have people sitting on the stage. He totally disregarded fire regulations and other rules, thinking that the message is too important to consider such frivolities. Unfortunately, in his zeal, he also overloaded a small airplane and it crashed very shortly after take-off, killing an amazing artist and passionate Christian.

      The lesson for me is this: in my zeal for the great things of God, I must not neglect the small things of God, even such small things as gravity. I am not superhuman, I should not expect myself to be superhuman, and I should not push the people around me to be superhuman. The best I can expect for myself and others is to love Jesus as much as possible and, when I’m confronted with my wrongdoing, sincerely own up to it and make every effort to make it right.

    • Well-said. Yes Keith Green’s open, public, corporate repentance is highly refreshing!

      “Green wrote in reply that “all the things you shared about me lording it over the sheep are very true,” and he promised to discontinue the following practices that had been criticized:

      – New members would now retain complete control of their own property.

      – Workers would be financially compensated.

      – There would be no restrictions on letters, phone calls and relationships except for continuation of a one-year “no dating” policy for community members.

      – No one would be asked to “clear” personal decisions with Green.

      – No one would be disparaged or accused of “rebellion” for leaving.

      Green also expressed his intention to add more personnel so that the work week could be cut to a more normal length. And finally, he promised to be more open to suggestions and willing to make changes in the future. Tragically for Green, the future proved to be very short. The young pastor was killed in the crash of his private plane in July of 1982.”

      Unfortunately, ubf remains one of the few (the only?) groups listed as part of the Shepherding Movement who has not corporately repented :(

      “While Christian Growth Ministries, Crossroads, and Maranatha are among the most prominent of the shepherding organizations, there are many others. Most of these are self-contained; that is, they retain the internal sheep-shepherd structure, but may or may not include the pyramidal hierarchy that culminates in a nationwide or international organization. Among these groups are “Gathering of Believers,” led by Larry Tomczak; Carl Stevens’ “The Bible Speaks,” Hobart Freeman’s “Faith Assembly;” “Last Days Ministries,” founded by the late Keith Green; “University Bible Fellowship;” and “Champaign-Urbana Ministries.”

      “Note from CISNEO: Since the publication of Ms. Blood’s articles in 1984 there have been changes in the Shepherding/Discipleship Movement. Some leaders (most notably Bob Mumford) publicly renounced the practice (Ministries Today, January/February 1990). However, because the method of control was (and still is) prevalent in some groups (not all of them charismatic in nature), it is still useful to understand the structure and behavior that characterize the practice.”

    • Chris,

      I am so sorry to hear your story. That is just insane and awful. I do not see Gods heart in this at all!! Im in disbelief that Christians could flat out lie and cause so much unnecessary stress and pain to satisfy their own ego and pride. It makes me wonder if they truly understand the true gospel of love and grace, because their is no evidence in their actions.

      I also married by Faith, but like Joshua, I wish we had courted. Its only recently that we have taken a step back to really get to know each other and face each other. I recommend “A weekend to Remember” by family life. I can honestly say this weekend changed the way we viewed our marriage. It has truly enhanced our marriage from a biblical perspective( which is so different from what UBF teaches), and has helped us go deeper in a relationship.

  11. I just came up with the titles of the next few articles to write:

    1) Using Marriage as Training is Un-Biblical and Non-Christian.

    2) Should Deciding Who and When to Marry Belong to the UBF Chapter Director?

    3) Threatening to Cancel One’s Marriage…Where Did That Come From?

    4) Kidnapping a Spouse Before Marriage Should Not Be Done.

    Any other suggestions?

    • “Kidnapping a Spouse Before Marriage Should Not Be Done.”

      I don’t know whether to laugh or cry!! My suggestion for the next one:

      5) How ensure your church will be labeled as a cult.

    • My own personal preference is to laugh.< ^_^>

    • Yes indeed. And sometimes a nice drink helps too…

    • Ah, Amaretto Sour!

    • Yes, another suggestion: 5) Kidnapping of renegade members should not be done.

      From a report written by a Korean member in 1989: “I even was displaced and held from my Dortmund dormitory to Cologne until I could escape in the night. That is another reason why I still fear, that the UBF people could come again and kidnap me.”

    • Ben, perhaps you could submit your ideas to the ubf pigs?

      (No, I am not using a derogatory term, “pig” is a new ubf acronym.)

      Here is the website link: ubf pigs at isbc

    • Share your thoughts here: ubf pigs

      (Note: do not click on the banner ads on this website, they are not related to ubf and are not very healthy for your computer)

    • Technically the Interest Groups have now become IGs, rather than PIGs. Unfortunate association with unclean animals, you know. :)

    • – I think that “pig so loved..” is not a wise e-mail address.

    • Unwise indeed, Vitaly. Just like the dildo drawn on the banner at the last Easter conference I attended in ubf. The title of the conference was “The full extent of Jesus’ love” and they let a sister draw some sort of magical dong with stars or something on the banner?? Does no one have any sense?

      There is a Korean ubf hardliner somewhere laughing… thinking “Look at those foolish Americans, anyone who attends an Interest Group where real discussion might happen is a PIG! And they accept it!” That dual-meaning word-redefinition was so common in my ubf days.

      But I guess that’s what happens when you get a room full of people to fearful of the director so that only words of flattery fill the air. 2 Corinthians 11:20, Proverbs 27:6

    • re: PIG. Don’t call unclean what God has made clean. :) I should have named it In any case,I take full responsibility for this little bit of foolishness. I prefer that this topic not be used as more ammo for UBF bashing. Maybe for John Y bashing. That is perfectly acceptable. Especially if the bashing can occur on this webpage: It will contribute to the ranking. Still #1 Most Viewed, yeah!

    • John Y, for me the address gives association with John 3:16 at once “God so loved the world”. And you have “pig so loved conference” as if you replaced not s.o. but God himself with the word “pig”. But I am not an American, so maybe it is just my association.

      And I viewed the #1 article here several times just because “It is a site about ubf and #1 article is this one… What is Limbo? … I forgot what is Limbo, let’s view it once more. Why do people view this article so much? What is it about?…”. I suppose that many others (especially silent readers) view it the same way. Actually they are attracted with the “ubf” topics and “ubfriends”. Unfortunately the article is not about ubf.

    • JohnY: I really hope you are not covering up for a certain someone who is involved in the PIGs, trying to take the blame for his bad idea. If I’m wrong, please correct me or forgive me. But I’ve seen this all too often.

    • No, I don’t believe in “cover-up.” I do believe in “cover-over” as in love covers over a multitude of sins.

      PIGs is my own sin. It is such no longer. It is now bacon or pork chops.

    • So are you now a BACONist? :)


  12. Maybe you wonder whether my wife had been chloroformed or handcuffed when she was “kidnapped”. Of course not. Why did she come with the missionaries who drove her to a another city in the night? Well, she was very young and blindsided by several senior missionaries who told her I had become “unspiritual” and she should pack her things and come with them. She was from another country and had no one in Germany to talk to, didn’t even speak the language. She was confused and did not know what to do and what happened with her. For a year, God’s plan for her had been to marry me, then suddenly God seemed to have changed his plan. Her chapter director had indoctrinated her explicitly to only listen to my chapter director only, not to me, even after marriage. Also, we both believed that everything happening around marriage was done by God and had to be done by God, so we let it happen, no matter how crazy it was, because we wanted to be sure that our marriage was really from God. It was always this same thinking that hindered us from saying “no”, namely that we believed God was behind everything, and we should just accept it as the mysterious ways of God. Because of that, UBF leaders could behave as crazy as they wanted, we would swallow and tolerate everything silently.

    • “Her chapter director had indoctrinated her explicitly to only listen to my chapter director only, not to me, even after marriage.”


  13. Though I know never to be shocked or surprised by anything under heaven, I am still “shaken” when I read new details and angles of the same painful stories that I have already heard repeatedly.

    I am always trying to explain why do such things happen?

    I believe it is that some leaders TRULY TRULY believe they have the RIGHT/AUTHORITY to do what they do to sheep by GOD’S AUTHORITY. They functionally operate as though:

    * their assessment is God’s correct assessment.
    * they must ensure commitment to UBF, because that is the only evidence of commitment to God.
    * their (drastic) course of action is pleasing to God and thus approved by God.
    * any voice of complaint or objection against them is very strongly repulsive to them because any complaint against “a servant of God” is a great sin against God.

    So even if they say “I’m sorry,” as MarthoO shared, they really have NO IDEA under heaven what they are sorry for!!! They think they are being humble by saying “I’m sorry.” But it often comes across as more subtle arrogance, like, “See how humble I am by saying that I am sorry!”

  14. @Chris. I realize that your bride to be was kidnapped because they were questioning your “undying loyalty and commitment to UBF.” In a sense they were right: You left 1 year after your marriage! I’m being facetious, of course.

    • But seriously, good point Ben. When a ubf director suspects dis-loyalty, they take action, often severe. That severe action then causes the dis-loyal person to react with any number of emotions, often they become bitter, resentful, angry and despondent– all BECAUSE of the mistreatment and control and manipulation that happened TO the apparently dis-loyal person.

      So when a person starts thinking for themselves or asking too many questions about taboo topics or starts reading ubfriends blogs, then ubf directors give you a “spiritual problem” and then say “See you are so rebellious. Maybe you are the one who is spiritually dead. Why do you suddenly attack me?”

      (Note: those are not made up words. Those are the words spoken to me on the phone immediately after I started asking questions, BEFORE I wrote even a single blog post!)

      Then the final nail of frustration is that the “dis-loyal” person then has to listen to ubf people say “Just forgive. Be like Jesus. Just be quiet and move on with your life!”

    • And a further note: The moment those words were spoken on the phone to me by a ubf Korean director is the moment the “scales fell off my eyes”. The Holy Spirit came alive in me and I knew that even though I would be crucified in the coming months, I knew what I had to do. I was suddenly filled with more peace and joy than ever before. And it was that moment that I saw a vision of a forest of dead and dying trees suddenly bursting into flame with the fire of the gospel.

      If anyone places loyalty above the bible, and obedience above justice, they do not fully understand the gospel messages Jesus proclaimed.

      At that moment, I knew I had a God-ordained task: Preach the gospel of Jesus to ubf directors.

  15. Brian, I suppose that the directors don’t like you and your gospel preaching )) During my talk the ubf top leader said that Joe is his friend and Dr.Ben also, but his face changed when I mentioned your name and refered to some of your articles. And btw I noticed that ubf directors very often “blaspheme against the Spirit”. I mean that when the Holy Spirit “comes alive” to a former ubfer (or to a ubfer like e.g. Joe) ubf directors say that “an unclean and evil spirit entered him”. I heard such things many times and I am sure the same blasphemies are being spoken out even now by my former director.

    • “an unclean and evil spirit entered him”

      Yes someone was asking that very question about me in 2011: “Is he demon-possessed?”

      That is part of what I mean by being crucified. I know people in ubf will see me as evil (but no one in ubf would dare say so publicly or directly to me because the ubf mindset always beats around the bush). I wish they would share with me how they feel, but it won’t happen.

      Last week the Boston police used a harsh tactic against suspect #2 called flash-bangs. The flash-bang is a grenade that stuns the suspect momentarily and wakes them up to the notion that they had better cooperate. It seems too cruel, but given the extreme harm and loss of life and resistance to confess and cooperate, the police had no choice.

      A flash-bang approach is actually an expression of grace in that situation. How would this situation have been handled in Africa or the Middle East or other places? The suspect would have been shot dead or hanged without a trial. The flash-bang approach causes temporary harm without doing longterm damage.

      That has been my approach to ubf directors these past 2 years, sparked by the phone call back in April 2011. Given the refusal to cooperate with reformers the past 50 YEARS and the stubborn refusal even TO TALK about serious problems led me to follow the flash-bang approach.

      I am an unlikely person to do so, as I was universally known as the “quietest man in ubf” and also “the most shy man in ubf”. I was known in many places, even in Russia, as a “most loyal and faithful ubf man.”

      And just in case anyone is wondering, my flash-bang approach will stop when I see signs of actual corporate repentance. And in case you are still wondering, God has given me, through His Spirit, a rather large supply of flash-bangs :/ It pains me greatly to follow this approach. But how many reform movements will it take? We won’t wait another 50 years for a ubf mission statement that includes Jesus or wait 5 decades for missionaries to “get it”.

  16. “but his face changed when I mentioned your name and refered to some of your articles.”

    Yes, common reaction :) Joe and Ben are “in” and I am “out”, so that makes a huge difference. But also I’ve been doing and saying some intentionally harsh words (sort of a flash-bang approach) so that Detroit UBF does not just disappear like several other chapters (i.e. the first Columbus Ohio chapter, Stuttgaart, Winnepeg, etc.)

    One person told me when I visited them, “You are so scary online but so nice in person!” In truth, I am simply being my self, and learning and growing and expressing 24 years of pent up frustration. That is my crazy, ugly, scary, beautiful, wonderful, amazing self of who I am and who I am becoming.

    Really I only become “ugly” when someone crosses the line of grace, love and justice.

  17. Brian, you mentioned the last news about Yekaterinburg ubf on the Once I saw a report (about Feb 2012) but it was on the site for some hours only and then disappeared. The news of 2011 is about “the fifth house church”. I’d like to share a little bit about it. He is a sincere Christian, I always liked the way he “fished” at campus. He wanted to get married for a long time and expressed that in his sogams. But he was rebuked at almost every sogam sharing meeting (“You are not worthy to get married, and I doubt you will be worthy. You are not a shepherd, you have no sheep. What mariage you are talking about!”). All his friends and peers had got married, but he suffered so much in ubf. When we prayed about him the Holy Spirit gave us some hints about His chosen sister (my wife’s sheep) and we all were waiting God’s will will come true. But all of a sudden the director told the brother to marry another sister by faith. He didn’t consult anyone, especially God. The brother obeyed and made an engagement. The other sister agreed but in some monthes changed her mind. She was rebuked a lot but she insisted. The shepherds of the sisters were rebuked a lot. By God’s grace somehow the family we prayed for became real inspite of the stupid and proud mistakes of the director and his wife. After marriage the brother openly despised the other sister and shared that “he was betrayed by her”. But most of all he shared that “God trained him so much and gave him a heavy hit through an event and helped him understand what a wretched sinner he was”. The other sister had a huge feeling of guilt. Even until recently she confessed that she felt guilt because she “doesn’t write sogams, fishes not much” etc, etc. (Thankfully by God’s grace now she is free from guilt by the power of Jesus gospel, btw some of Brian’s articles and links I gave her helped her a lot). But you know the brother was very thankful that the servant of god allowed him to get married at last. For a long time he didn’t see God’s hand in his family but thought that ubf and the director provided him a wife.

    At the moment of my leaving (though the Holy Spirit hadn’t yet come alive in me) I rebuked the director that he didn’t consult anyone and made such a great mistake in a tyranical way with so many painful consequences. He replied that he was not wrong but was absolutely right and that I was wrong thinking he was wrong. Only once (after politically wise advices of his ubf top consultants) he confessed to some brothers, ” I made some mistakes, I talked to you sharply”. He has been “perfect” and I remember the trainings I had after I shareed in a sogam that “Even msn David is not perfect… only Jesus is perfect”. I was rebuked that I said such “ugly negative unthankful” words about my shepherd who turned out to be more perfect than Jesus ))

    • Thanks for sharing Vitaly. These are the stories that must be told. It is painful to hear but all too familiar. One of the huge values of this website is that we connect people’s stories. For the dozens and even hundreds of ubf “silent reads” here, you know that Vitaly’s story resonates with you. You know exactly how the people feel in those situations because you have been in those same situations in countries around the world.

      One theme of my friends who left ubf about the same time as my family was this: We thought we were the only ones who felt like this! This website helps ubfers realize you are not alone.

      And by the way, the flash-bang approach works. Evidence of that is that I had a wonderful and joyful dinner for about 2 hours with ATK a couple weeks ago in Chicago. I had good fellowship with AW and JK in Ben and Christy’s house. And even as recently as two weeks ago, I met my shepherd in person and hugged him several times.

      I seek reconciliation and I’m not going away until it happens.

    • Thanks for sharing, Vitaly. These “marriage by faith” is really “marriage by shepherd’s control and decision.” Check out UBF’s Commandment #7:

      Some missionaries cannot be told “you’re not perfect,” because they have no sense of humor, they take themselves so seriously, or they are strongly controlled and ruled by their own honor and glory.

  18. Brian is a very nice and kind person. He was my fellowship leader for a long time:) I must say he never really did fit the UBF mold.

    • Yes indeed, those who know me realize that even though I was very quiet/shy, I was also very decisive. Our PN fellowship was often a source of minor conflict, such as wanting women to be messengers!

  19. It could have been piggy so loved. After all, I SO LOVED the three little pigs who built houses. Some crumbled under the challenge of the big bad wolf. There will yet be some built on brick that will stand the test of time. Consider it a metaphor for things to come

  20. After being introduced to this site I have been inspired to contribute. After consideration I am careful for my identity as I am still a member, but in the past and even present my views and concerns have been met with resistance and shaming etc…

    I did marry by faith, however, the example in my life was set apart to say the least. First of all, it had not been in my home chapter – frankly, the prayer topic had never been publicly voiced about my marriage. But when entering a different chapter by my own human right and decision the matter greeted me the first SWS I attended. Very strange I thought, and honestly unsettling. Engagement is not a game nor is it something to be taken lightly, but apparantly where I was attending the chapter director regarded it as sport (a competition against other chapter directors) to establish as many house churches as possible. I might add without the sincere conviction from the student so long as they obeyed what was instructed before and after.

    I had been used to my home chapter environment and I had my own differences about the marriage matter. Over the years I accepted that either I meet someone outside UBF and leave or remain in UBF and eventually consent to a marriage by faith. Needless to say I have my own sour experiences over this matter which do not need to be restated. I often thought the perfect scenario would be to meet someone outside and for the both of us to be part of UBF, possible but did not happen for me.

    When I did move chapter the concern for my marriage was raised because of my age (which did not bother me at all). I was okay to be single but I wanted respect in the ministry as a single. In reality I realized that you can give your time, money, effort, friendships and everything else to serving the ministry in the name of self-denial and sacrifice but it still won’t buy/get you the respect that should be given to all of God’s servants and children. House churches hold status that is not real.

    I took several months evading the interest of the chapter director. In fact on one occasion the director actually said that he would do the same for me as he had done for another shepherd and leader. It was just the same as when Jesus had fasted and prayed and was tempted three times. I was unnerved by this approach at the time and slipped further away from the topic of marriage. I still maintained my commitment level to morning DB, Friday meeting and SWS, but I often came and went as a student would have.

    It was not until several months of personal prayer and devotion and reflection that I accepted to prepare a life testimony for engagement. I shared it at a conference but many attendants had no idea what the purpose was for – and frankly I always….always shared revised life testimonies over the years. Anyhow, after that conference that was it. The testimony was submitted and the rest is history.

    I can honestly say in my example of engagement and marriage everything happened so suddenly and was done in secret from all other directors and shepherds outside of my chapter (including my home chapter). The only reason why anyone would have guessed the truth was the obvious situation when my future wife and I sat together during a ceremony right after our engagement ceremony.

    My wife and I did take the time to use all of the various tools online to get to know each other because we really couldn’t court or meet as we were in different cities. Maybe it was my bad influence on her – but we communicated very often so that it became a joke to us and even to those around us. We did get to know each other and soon discovered that the decision we had made was before God and not men. But that did not stop our chapter director. After the marriage I had predictable disagreements because there is no pleasing me – EVER! For example, the first local retreat/conference after our wedding the director’s wife organized the cars, separating me and my wife – I had that changed immediately. When my wife shared some abuse about control, communication, trust, obedience, priorities and overall understanding of her place as a woman and as a wife all guided by the director’s wife I was irate.

    Even a discovered pregnancy was treated harshly. My wife had only discovered the matter and was accepting it herself when a nasty text message read “what sort of person are you for keeping this a secret?” (I am paraphrasing this.) It was no secret – it was fresh news that we as a married couple needed to digest before we shared with anyone else – is that so wrong? Because of the troubles I had had in the past I was always ready for a fight.

    Soon, trouble hit my wife and I because we were to be separated by powers outside of our hands. I thank God that we married not because of chapter directors but because we had conviction that the time was right and that the person introduced was the best one. God worked in our hearts and somehow united us together in sincerity despite the politics of ministry. We have not been apart since those few months and our family is doing well and growing in faith and love everyday.

    All this to say – I am very aware of problems in engagement and marriage. This discussion includes behaviours and controls upon couples etc… Personally, if a leader or chapter director sins once, repents and sincerely corrects his/her ways then I can not only forgive them but embrace them in the love of Christ. But if that leader repeatedly makes the same mistake again and again after being exposed by the community without repenting then I believe that leader/director should be stripped of their position and the matter must be addressed.

    We all must be accountable. A chapter director must be accountable for their leadership before God and the congregation. A shepherd must be accountable for their serving or love for their sheep (true heart motive: what’s good for the image of the shepherd vs. what’s beneficial for the sheep).

    The two people to be engaged must be accountable for their seen and unseen motive to marry in the first place. They must not only demonstrate to the congregation their respect for marriage but also their sincere love for each other. Jesus accepted us, all of us – we must accept that person who may be our future spouse whether or not they come from our chapter and we know them or they come from a different chapter and we don’t know them or even a different country. There is much I have left out on purpose, but my story is here.

    Before we can serve our Christian mission in the family we must have:
    1) personal faith
    2) be mature in spirit
    3) be prepared for differences with our spouse and even our children
    4) have complimentary ways of serving God with others
    5) be open to new approaches or ways we can be useful in God and also see others in that same light

    There are many more things I can say but this comment is becoming an essay.

    • Welcome gc, and thank you for sharing your “essay”. It is helpful for all of us to hear multiple stories and connect with each other.

      Just one quick comment: “For example, the first local retreat/conference after our wedding the director’s wife organized the cars, separating me and my wife..”

      That is so common in ubf – the separation of husband and wife. My wife and I just got used to living as single people for over 16 years of our marriage.

    • Separating husband and wife is most important to ensure that they do not become “family-centered” and that the chapter director has more influence over the husband than his wife, and the chapter director’s wife has more influence over the wife than the husband. Who knows what would happen if–heaven forbid–we allowed couples to actually form an autonomous unit that’s not under someone else’s control! They might do something absolutely, mind-blowingly immoral, like sit next to each other during SWS or, oh-my-goodness!, they’re holding hands!

    • formershep

      Thank you GC for sharing your story. One thing that you shared that was very painful for me is about the spiritual abuse of the chapter director’s wife. This is something that I have been wanting to bring up for some time. In my case and maybe in many more, much if not most of the spiritual abuse, manipulation, psychological/emotional abuse was done by the female missionary. This is something that I have not yet read about on this site yet. I believe that they are actually the ones in charge most of the time. They do make decisions regarding front-line activities regarding ‘sheep’ and leaders. In my experience, everything had to go through the director’s wife and get her approval. It was just terrible and terribly controlling. Maybe we can pick up this topic elsewhere.
      But GC you seem to be in a much better place not and I’m happy for you and your wife’s love and growth despite the abuse.

    • You raise an important point for further discussion, formershep: “In my experience, everything had to go through the director’s wife and get her approval. It was just terrible and terribly controlling. Maybe we can pick up this topic elsewhere.”

      ubf is somewhat odd in that it is male-dominated and female-controlled. It is rare that men and women do ministry together in ubf, and even more rare for women who left ubf to speak up.

      I think we need to hear the voice of women here. From what I’ve learned from my wife, “brother’s ministry” and “sister’s ministry” are vastly different, so different in fact that they might be two different universes.

      What do women think about all this? Maybe we could have some articles submitted to discuss new topics?

  21. Joshua, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at the ridiculous rules we follow. Its insane, mind blowing and weird that this happens. The splitting of the marriage unit goes against Gods original plan. When Mark and I went to ” A weekend to Remember” the speaker said ” Marriage is the backbone to the Christian Church”. Wow!! That whole weekend was amazing. Our chains fell off and mark and I have had a different perspective of how we view our marriage since then. We now serve God together and feel free to sit together at SWS whenever we want to. There is something beautiful and healthy about that.

    gc…Thank you for sharing your story. I hope that God gives everyone the courage to tell their story of the cruelty and unnecessary pain that is happening in UBF. The sad thing is that many of these things are done for “Christ’s sake”. Enough is Enough!! Cant any of the UBF leaders see that this is not Christ like…..

  22. @MarthaO “Cant any of the UBF leaders see that this is not Christ like…..”

    I honestly think that some cannot. If they do, they will repent and revert to their original stance. :-)

    As Brian pointed out, one good thing is that the LOUDEST leaders have become the most SILENT leaders. This is actually refreshing to not have to hear those who like the reverberation of their own voices, as though it was the voice of rushing waters!

  23. It is remarkable the points that have struck people so far. To be honest I submitted my story of engagement – and after surveying all the pages in this website I can see that marriage has been discussed before but quite a while ago.

    Anyhow, I am happy that I could raise the issue of women and a woman’s perspective because I was ashamed I could not publicly stand up for my wife. I was afraid that my actions might have worse consequences for her – so I decided to take a more passive aggressive approach to the situation rather than face it head on. I knew in my heart that I would be okay and that she would suffer for my foolish (albeit well meant) efforts. The most important thing for us was that I recognized what was happening and supported my wife’s feelings since she was the outsider to our chapter.

    Regarding separating men and women such as the cars incident – what more can I say. It was a predictable situation. First, you monitor, judge and approve all male/female interaction in the church. Next, you deem my behaviour acceptable. Later you encourage my engagement and marriage to get my trust and loyalty. After that, you do your best to keep my relationship with you the strongest and my wife’s relationship the strongest with your wife. The result for the married couple can vary at best. I agree with Joshua’s much simpler summary of the matter.

    I have another topic to be posted and discussed – but I can’t initiate – too little experience. I can’t remember where I read from Joshua but mentioning about baby sitting 6 times a week and the baby wasn’t weened yet….

    Anyhow, the topic I propose is not exactly about second gens (from their point of view) but about parents and what should be done. Priorities please! I thought that the first wave of missionaries made a mess and the first set of second gens had to reconcile with their parents. If the mistakes have already been made by the first wave – shouldn’t the problem have been solved to prevent repeating the same matters? Basically, the topic should address serving in ministry with some common sense. If a baby or child needs their parent for practical matters then do the right thing!! It is not a sin to be responsible for your dependents (and I am talking about your (1 month – 10 year old etc….) not your church activity.

    • @gc: “If the mistakes have already been made by the first wave – shouldn’t the problem have been solved to prevent repeating the same matters?”

      From a Christian perspective, yes. But from a ubf worldview perspective, no. I heard about problems in ubf all 24 years. In response I did two things: a) stick my head in the sand and live in denial of the problems and b) store up such things in my heart.

      My first action made me an enabler of spiritual abuse. My second action seems to have been Spirit-inspired. In the past 2 years since resigning as a ubf director in 2011, I have realized the value of storing up all those things. I now have much to process and I also have much written material to prove my points. I have boxes and boxes of ubf papers, material, etc. and hundreds of megabytes of electronic documents, emails, screenshots, databases, etc.

      So back to your quote. One reason why the mistakes weren’t acknowledged is because of the re-definition of terms. So in the ubf worldview I had developed, any mistake was seen as “serving” and any problem was a “blessing”. So when I made the mistake of breaking into my director’s house and stealing his belongings in the middle of winter, I was “blessing his family” and “serving him in love”, in my worldview. This worldviewism is all very dangerous, to redefine reality like this.

  24. formershep

    GC, you hit on so many points that I would be able to pick up on. One being loyal to your shepherd rather than to your spouse. This caused a lot of friction between my husband and I. He was often upset and hurt that I was not acting as “his co-worker” but as the “director’s wife’s co-worker.” Also we were “forbidden” or highly discouraged from sharing certain things with each other because it might bother our spouses’ faith. Also another thing that just killed me was when I was directly blamed by both wife and director for being a bad influence on my husband or causing him to sin! Somehow his sin was my fault. But my sin was never his fault.
    The topic of missionary woman and specifically director’s wives is one that I am an expert in but is still a huge open wound for me) (manipulation, fear, emotional/psychological games), so I’m not sure if I’m ready yet to talk about it graphically here yet.

    Not only being separated from your spouse but also from your very young children is UNBIBLICAL. I was away from my young children for way to much. Not only that but it nearly ruined us financially. Ok, I’ll stop here.

    • Sharon

      Ditto, formershep. Still painful for me to talk about too.

    • Ditto, for us too, formershep. [So I take it you are “formershepherdess” correct?]

  25. formershep

    Brian: LOL, yup

  26. Sharon

    Here’s a book recommendation for formershep and all you women out there: Freefall to Fly by Rebekah Lyons. Since many of us are in a kind of freefall, this book is so relevant:

    “Sadly for many, like me, our uniqueness was squelched by peer pressure, feelings of inadequacy, or diapproval. We didn’t have the chance to explore or develop our gift. It still hangs inside us like a half-finished piece of art….surely God wants us to reclaim it. To stop filling our days with distractions that deter us from using our hearts and souls. To get off the hamster wheel.”

    • Yes, getting off the hamster wheel is a good and necessary step. (click the link to see a picture of the ubf hamster wheel from their own teaching material.)

      Getting off the wheel may or may not mean leaving the ministry. But stop is the “one word” the Holy Spirit is saying to ubf people these days.

      And why were we too busy even to get to know our spouses? Why were we too busy to properly care for our children? Why are so many ubf couples finally stating the obvious fact that they should get to know each other?

      The main reason I found is because we bought into and sold out to the false worldivew vision of double ministry. We already discussed this here, but the ubf double ministry slogan is nothing more than a logically false, loyalty building, biblically unsound, and utterly futile lie.

  27. I am moved by the open discussion and emotion. I will keep formershep, Sharon, Brian and anyone else in pain in my prayers.

    The comment from Brian yesterday, “and even more rare for women who left ubf to speak up” struck me just now.

    One thing that has always bothered me as a sheep, a single shepherd and now a married man is the negative attitude against women in UBF. I have always heard the turn of phrase, “…that shepherd was following God until he met that wayward woman.” In discourse it appears to be the wife’s fault if a house church leaves UBF. It rarely or never seems to be the husbands fault or decision – unless you are me of course.

    I think we need to support our wives and be prepared for repenting even ourselves. I say this because when we were students, single shepherds and even after marriage I am sure we stood by silently while a sister or shepherdess or even our wife was scolded unjustly. It was my silence that has led me to speak up now, because it is not just about my complaints about my bad experience, but also about my wife’s bad experience and so on…

    • joshua

      Indeed, gc, as a husband, I have been passive enough. I have stood by too long as my wife bore the brunt of deep psychological abuse and accusations. Even as we were leaving, she was the one being blamed. I’m working on my PhD, so she was accused of having “human desire to be the wife of a professor,” and accused of being rebellious against the director. Now, I have to live with the anguish that I stood by passively while her identity was being methodically deconstructed, her motherhood being attacked, her motives always being questioned, and her life was always under the microscope. I was a “yes man”, a weakling, a coward, and as a result, my wife and children suffered. That is a very heavy burden to carry and a hard load to let go. I’ve said this before, but sometimes in church I just lose it and cry. The other day, my five-year-old daughter said to me, “Before we went to [our current church], I worshiped with the babysitter.” Hearing those words was like a sword in my heart; how could I have sacrificed my own precious children on the altar of UBF campus mission?

  28. formershep

    Thanks, I’ll look it up. It really speaks to me on many levels: lack of confidence, no self awareness or development of my personal abilities (those that didn’t fit the ministry mold)and so on. One book that changed my life was “Boundaries” but I think I already mentioned that.
    Thanks for the support.

  29. My prayer for healing. Amazing grace.

  30. My wife and I had a really good marriage in Chicago UBF after marriage (only by God’s mercy and grace), even though we literally did not know anything about each other before marriage! We had one of those 2 week notice weddings, which of course shocked both our families. My parents could not come from Malaysia because of the short notice. Christy’s parents refused to come to the wedding, even though they live 4 hours away in Toledo.

    But our common experience is the shaming and blaming the wife for the husband’s sins. Since I was a sort of “fruitful poster boy of UBF,” everything that goes wrong is her fault, which obviously really hurt her. I would always insist to her that it is NOT HER FAULT, but it did not comfort her much because of the public perception and sentiment (usually subtle and subjective) that it was her fault, if say “I was not growing.”

    Let me just say the obvious: THIS IS BAD THEOLOGY that is totally the vile imagination of some UBF leaders. Sadly, it continues today. It must be exposed for what it is and remedies sought!

    The other HORRIBLE THING is that some older UBF leaders acknowledge the husband and IGNORE THE WIFE in public and private. It is as though they are so high and holy that they cannot lower themselves even to greet or acknowledge the woman’s existence. (Maybe they think it communicates how pure and spiritual they are that they are not moved at all by any woman!) This too is highly demeaning, sexist and unbecoming of any Christian leader. Incidentally, this just happened in a certain place within the last 24 hours! but I should probably keep the details confidential. (I’m trying to keep you in suspense like Joe!)

  31. UBF in my perception fails to acknowledge that a single man or woman is already complete in Christ. God’s love is not dependent on your marital status. Singleness is something that eeds to be removed, in their way … and we know their policy of MBF which is hurtful i think

    • *Needs

    • forestsfailyou

      Tim Keller in The Meaning of Marriage notes that most churches do not find the correct balance in 1 Corinthians 7. They either “view a single person as incomplete”. This is common in many Southern US states he says. Or they view single people, especially those who have sworn off marriage as “more Christ like”. Married people are second rate. This is the view of many catholic dioceses. Tim Keller quotes someone who puts it like this “God might be so good that I am gifted with singleness, but he also might be so good that I am gifted with marriage. There’s the balance.”

  32. Mark Mederich

    Suggested marriage may be ok but not obligated marriage & certainly not misused as a tool of control for the benefit of the regime (such invites hellfire)